Can I Trust Credit Karma?

Q: I’m trying to increase my credit score ahead of applying for a large loan, so I’m considering signing up for Credit Karma to track my score. How accurate are the credit scores it shares? Is there anything I need to be aware of before signing up for this service?

A: Credit Karma is a legitimate company; however, for a variety of reasons, its scores may vary greatly from the number your lender will share with you when it checks your credit.

We have answers to all your questions about Credit Karma.

What is Credit Karma?
Credit Karma is an online credit service that operates under the principle that everyone is entitled to a free and honest credit score. To that end, the site allows you to check your credit whenever you’d like without paying any fees – a privilege that can cost you about $20 a month from its competitors. You’ll need to sign up for the service and share some sensitive information, like your Social Security number and your financial goals, but you won’t be asked for any credit card numbers or account information.

Scores are updated once a week, and the company only performs a “soft inquiry” on your credit to get the necessary information – which means your score is never impacted by it checking your credit on your behalf. Credit Karma also offers lots of credit advice, customizable loan calculators, and reviews on financial products of all kinds.

Credit Karma earns its profit through targeted ads. As you learn your way around the site and start to frequent it more often, you’ll see ads that are geared toward your specific financial situation. For example, if your credit is excellent and you’re looking for a home loan, you’ll probably find loads of ads from mortgage companies. While this may seem like a breach of privacy, it’s no different than the way much larger online platforms you likely use, including Google and Facebook, earn a profit.

How does Credit Karma calculate my score?
The online credit company uses information from two of the three major credit reporting agencies, TransUnion and Equifax, to give you a VantageScore 3.0. While this type of credit score is gaining popularity among lenders, you may not recognize it – and for good reason. The FICO scoring model is by far the most widely used credit score among financial institutions and lenders across the country, with 90% of lenders using this score to net potential borrowers.

The atypical scoring model used by Credit Karma, coupled with the absence of information from Experian, the third of the three major credit reporting agencies, tends to make Credit Karma scores differ from scores pulled by other companies and financial institutions. The credit service is usually within range and a good indicator of your overall credit wellness. You can also get a report with a thin credit history through this model, which is super-helpful for those seeking to build their credit from nothing.

How do other lenders calculate my score?
Most financial institutions use a FICO scoring model to measure consumers’ credit scores. As mentioned, this number will likely be lower than the score you see on Credit Karma, but will fall within the same general range.

It’s also important to note that, each time you apply for a specific kind of loan with an individualized lender, it will likely also use its own customized formula. For example, if you were applying for a mortgage with a home loan company, it would probably use a score that is specifically developed for mortgage loans. Similarly, if you were to apply for a car loan from an auto lender, it will use its own score designed to predict the likelihood of you defaulting on an auto loan. This can result in an even lower credit score from these lenders.

Is there any other way to get my credit score?
If you’re looking for a more relevant credit score, you have several options. You can ask a potential lender to pull your credit, though this might cost you both in fees and in a knock to your credit for the hard inquiry. You can order your free credit report with information from all three credit bureaus once a year, at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Lastly, for more frequent monitoring, you can sign up for access to your FICO score and 3-bureau credit report on Experian.com, where packages start at $19.99 a month. There are other similar services out there, but most are not legitimate or are grossly overpriced.

How does DoverPhila Federal Credit Union decide if I’m eligible for a loan?
We use the FICO model to calculate your credit score when you apply for a large loan. While this number will likely differ from your Credit Karma score, it gives us a broader picture of your credit as it includes information pulled from all three credit bureaus. We’ll also review your full financial history and trajectory to determine if you are eligible for the loan.

Here at DoverPhila Federal Credit Union, our goal is to help you achieve and maintain financial wellness. Consequently, we are far more likely to approve a loan for one of our members than a random lender who doesn’t know the first thing about you or your financial history.

If you’re trying to increase your credit score before applying for a large loan, we can help! Stop by DoverPhila Federal Credit Union today to speak to one of our free financial counselors about steps you can take to improve your credit.

If you’re ready to take out that loan, make DoverPhila Federal Credit Union your first stop! Our stress-free application process, low interest rates, and reasonable terms make us the best choice for your next large loan. We’ll help turn your dream home, car, or business into a reality.

Step 6 of 12 Towards Financial Freedom: Trim Expenses

If you’ve been following our Financial Freedom series, then you know that last month we focused on creating a budget. Now that we have a budget, let’s slim it down!

You’ve already practiced spending less thanks to Step #2 in this series. Now, it’s time to get serious about it. Take a long, hard look at the money you spend each month and find your weak spots. Maybe consider going out to eat less often. Check out the example below.

Example:
In general, a single meal costs $5 to $7 at a fast-food restaurant (average is $6).

Saving by packing

You could save over $1,000 in a year!

Now, it’s your turn. Where do you spend the most on unnecessary purchases? What’s your particular vice? You may even have several spending traps. How can you cut back on you daily expenses? Any extra money you save goes toward your debt payments.

Need a fresh perspective on trimming your expenses? Sit down with one of our free, on-staff financial counselors. Call today at 330-364-8874 and ask for Katy Steinebrey or Fred Weingarth.

Need budgeting tools? Check out our interactive library through Banzai by clicking here.

Couples and Money: Truth or Friction?

Money is one of the most sensitive topics couples face. Disagreement over spending and saving habits is one of the most frequent causes of friction in a relationship. Truthful, frank discussion and mutual financial planning can go a long way to resolve the tension.

BUDGET: A DIRTY WORD?
Does the mere mention of a budget start your teeth grinding? For many, it evokes the same enthusiasm as going on a diet – in this case, a money diet. Begin by changing your focus. Agree with your partner to create a spending plan. Agree to review it and adjust it periodically. A plan is adjustable and should suit your lifestyle, not imprison you.

The first step is to carefully track expenses. Save every receipt for a month so you have a clear picture of your spending. Be open about your spending. In a relationship, silence is not golden.

SET SAVINGS GOALS
“Pay yourself first” is the first rule of financial success. Agree to commit a percentage of your take-home pay to savings. Ten percent is a good place to start. Increase the amount as you can. Maximize contributions to retirement or 401(k) plans where an employer provides matching funds.

Need a retirement plan? Check out these savings options that are customized to your needs.

DISCUSS BIG EXPENDITURES
Agree to consult with each other about purchases that are more than a specific amount (such as $200). Keep an agreed-upon amount of cash of your own in an individual account. Each of you should have money to spend on small indulgences with no questions asked. Agree in advance on what types of expenses are personal. For example, is a magazine subscription personal or part of your overall spending plan? Deciding in advance will leave little room for argument later.

Thinking about making a large purchase? Ask yourself these questions first.

Additionally, don’t criticize each other in public about money. Keep financial discussions private. Review your plan periodically. Every year or so, sit down to determine if your goals have changed or if your plan needs adjusting. You’ll avoid the type of arguments most couples find themselves in by keeping these simple guidelines in mind.

Feeling overwhelmed? Consider sitting down with one of our free, on-staff financial counselors for a fresh perspective.

Seven Steps to a Mid-Year Financial Check-Up

It feels like you just packed away the holiday decorations yesterday, but believe it or not, 2019 is already half over. As we sail into the season of barbecues and beaches, take a few minutes to give yourself a mid-year financial checkup. A small investment of time can spur important changes that can affect your financial wellness for the rest of 2019 or even for years to come. 

Use the seven steps detailed below to guide you through your checkup. 

Step 1: Revisit Your Budget 
Remember sitting down in December and crunching all those numbers? There’s no need for such a detailed job again, but take some time to review your monthly budget. Are you sticking to the planned budget for every category? Are you overspending in some categories or under-spending in others? Do you need to adjust your allotted budget in some areas or maybe trim your discretionary spending across the board?

Review your spending over the last few months and make any necessary changes so your budget can continue working for you. Be sure to account for any significant life changes that may alter your financial needs, such as a marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce, or a job change. 

 You will avoid falling into a mindless spending trap and you will be taking proactive steps toward staying on top of your finances for the rest of 2019 by reviewing and adjusting your budget.

Step 2: Anticipate Large Expenses 
Now that you’ve updated your monthly budget, take a moment to list any large expenses you anticipate having in the next six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing, expensive car repairs that will likely become necessary, or an anticipated medical expense that is not fully covered by insurance. 

Once you have this information in hand, determine which spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Do you have a rainy-day fund that can pay for one or several of these costs? Can you use the money in your emergency fund? Make the decision about sourcing this money now so you don’t make the wrong choices when you’re stressed and pressed for time in the future. 

If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget now so you have the funds available when you need them. 

Step 3: Review Your Tax Withholdings 
Review your tax withholdings to see if they need any adjusting. If taxes and numbers are not your thing, ask your accountant for assistance with this step. Your goal here is to pay the perfect amount so you’re not hit with a huge tax bill at the end of the year but also not lending the government your money interest-free. 

Step 4: Check Your Credit Score 
Your credit score is like your money grade, indicating the degree of your financial wellness and responsibility. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. 

If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work. 

On the flip side, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Are there any errors you’ll need to contest with the Federal Trade Commission? Is there a credit card bill or another line of credit you’ve been neglecting that is dragging your score down? Are you having trouble remembering to pay your monthly bills in a timely manner? Take the necessary steps to fix your score today by setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills, by lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often, or by sitting down with one of our free financial counselors.

Step 5: Review Your Investments
Now is the time to review and adjust all of your investments. This includes your contributions to your retirement funds or savings certificates at DoverPhila Federal Credit Union. Make sure you are maximizing your contributions when possible and that your other investments are performing according to plan, adjusting as necessary.   

Step 6: Tackle Your Debt 
List every single outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and loans. Designate one debt to tackle first, either choosing the one that carries the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance. Next, work on a plan to get rid of your chosen debt, being careful not to neglect the others. See if you can trim your budget or boost your income in any way to increase your payments on this debt. Once you’ve paid it off, move to the next one on your list so you’re on your way to a debt-free life. 

Step 7: Review Your Financial Resolutions and Long-term Goals 
Which financial resolutions did you jot down at the end of 2018? What are your dreams for the future? Did you want to start socking away another $200 a month? Is your goal to retire comfortably at 55?

Take some time to review these goals and to determine whether you are indeed taking the steps necessary for making them happen. If you’ve been neglecting them for the first half of 2019, create a plan for working toward them for the rest of the year. Remember: With determination and proper planning, nearly any financial goal is possible! 

Now that you’ve given yourself a thorough financial checkup, you can kick back and enjoy the sweetness and the sunshine of the season, guilt-free. Click here for more tips and tools to help maneuver your finances in the right direction.

Step 3 of 12 Towards Financial Freedom: Negotiate a Lower APR

If the majority of your outstanding debt is credit card debt, you may be spending hundreds of dollars just on interest alone. Aside from wasting money, this keeps you from moving forward and paying down your debt.

NEGOTIATE FOR A LOWER APR
Most people don’t know you can call up a credit card company and negotiate for a lower APR. Take the time this month to do that. Explain that you are working on paying down your debt and that the interest payments are impeding your progress. You can even research competing cards and cite their interest rates in a bid for a lower APR from your current credit card company.

Lowering your interest rates will allow you to make another real step toward getting rid of debt. Click here to get the facts on credit cards and credit card debt.

Feeling overwhelmed? No worries; we’ve got you covered! Sit down with one of our free, on-staff financial counselors. They can suggest tips for saving more and spending less so you can be one step closer to financial freedom. Call today at 330-364-8874 and ask for Katy Steinebrey or Fred Weingarth.

Elder Abuse—Do You Know the Signs and How to Help?

Ohioans may not have a clear grasp of the prevalence of financial exploitation and abuse of elderly adults. According to an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, 67 percent of Ohioans say they’ve never known an elderly person who has been the victim of some kind of elderly abuse.

Elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult, according to the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

According to research from the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in nine elder adults reported being abused, neglected, or exploited in the past year. Financial exploitation was a particularly prevalent form of elder abuse, with one in 20 older adults indicating they had been in some way financially mistreated in the recent past.

That number is likely just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Ohio Department of Aging, 16,000 reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation are made each year in Ohio; however, according to the National Institutes of Health, these reports represent only one in 14 cases, and the National Adult Protective Services Association found that only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.

Many cases stay under the radar because the victim is hesitant to get their perpetrators into trouble.

According to the Ohio Credit Union League study, 84 percent of respondents believe family members and close friends are the people most responsible for protecting the elderly from financial abuse. That belief may perpetuate a dangerous trend. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, 90 percent of abusers and exploiters are the very family members and caretakers entrusted to care for the victim.

Financial institutions, especially credit unions who are close to their members and communities, are a key defense to elderly abuse by reporting suspicious activity reports for potential elderly exploitation. When and how to report elder abuse in Ohio can be located here.

Tips for Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

Keep in contact.
According to AARP, it’s easier for criminals to step in and befriend elderly people when they’re lonely. Be sure to call and visit elderly friends and family members frequently. Establish yourself as a trustworthy presence for them to lean on if they find themselves worried or in trouble.

Remain vigilant.
Keep an eye on the financial habits of your elderly friends and family members. Take note of large withdrawals, unusual requests for money, or alarming lapses in memory about major financial transactions. Remember that you don’t have to prove financial exploitation to report it. Your suspicion is enough. 

Know your elderly relatives’ acquaintances.
Make sure you are becoming acquainted with the people interacting with your elderly friend or relative. It may also be helpful to know the nature of these interactions. Keep a close eye on anybody you don’t know well and track suspicious behavior in acquaintances—and family members.

Have difficult conversations.
It may be uncomfortable to ask an older relative about financial matters, especially if they’ve always been financially independent in the past. It might be equally difficult to approach a trusted relative about suspicious behavior toward an elderly acquaintance. While these issues might be sensitive, it’s important they’re brought to light, just in case.

Get professional help.
A lawyer can work with elders to establish trusts and other financial arrangements that are difficult for criminals to breach, according to Money Crashers. Lawyers can also recommend mediators and counselors who can work with families experiencing tensions over the finances of an elderly relative.

Learn how a credit union can help strengthen your financial security by visiting www.YourMoneyFurther.com.

Step 2 of 12 Towards Financial Freedom: Don't Dig Yourself Deeper

When you’ve dug yourself deep into a pit, the only way to get out is to stop digging. This month, focus on not racking up more debt. Stop using your credit cards. Skip your weekly trips that usually have you buying too many non-essentials.

Instead, start brown-bagging your work lunch and brewing your own coffee. Get into the habit of spending only on essentials so you can make real progress toward paying down that debt. Click here if you need some tips for cutting expenses.

Don’t forget to make the minimum payments on every line of credit and loan you have open. Neglecting your debt will only pull you deeper into the pit.

 Feeling overwhelmed? No worries; we’ve got you covered! Sit down with one of our free, on-staff financial counselors. They can help suggest ways of saving more and spending less so you can be one step closer to financial freedom. Call today at 330-364-8874 and ask for Katy Steinebrey or Fred Weingarth.

Want more information on managing debt? Check out our interactive library through Banzai by clicking here.

What to Buy and What to Skip on Memorial Day

Since 1971, Memorial Day has been celebrated as an extended weekend away from work and the unofficial start of summer. More recently, Memorial Day has also turned into a second Black Friday for retailers and shoppers. There are loads of sale events in stores and online, and each guarantees to save you heaps of money. But that’s not always the case.  

As always, though, not every marked-down product is actually a bargain. In fact, you can sometimes get the same product a lot cheaper by waiting a few months—or even just a few weeks. And of course, if the for-sale item is not one you need, you’re better off leaving it in the store. But, if you know what to shop for and you’re careful to stick to what you need and can afford, you can find some great deals. 

Let’s look at what to buy and what to skip this Memorial Day weekend. 

Buy: Outdoor Essentials 
Welcome summer with outdoor gear like grills, lawn mowers, ladders and more, which are marked down as much as 50% at stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Online retailers, like Wayfair and Overstock, host similar events and may offer free two-day shipping in honor of the summer kickoff. 

Skip: Electronics 
You’re going to see crazy-low deals on gaming consoles, laptops, and tablets around Memorial Day weekend. But, unless you need one now, wait it out. You’ll find even better deals on electronics during the Black Friday season. 

Buy: Furniture 
Snag a great deal on a fully loaded patio set, pick up a marked-down comfortable sofa, and swap your old mattresses for inexpensive new ones at Memorial Day sale events. 

Skip: TVs 
Most marked-down TVs you’ll find around Memorial Day are older models with outdated features. Find better deals for newer models in November or January.  

Buy: Wedding Registry Gifts 
Department stores, like Macy’s and JC Penney, offer discounts on household essentials, such as coffee makers and blenders, in anticipation of the wedding season. 

Skip: Cars 
If you’re looking for a new set of wheels, wait until after June. You’ll find the hottest deals between July and October. 

Buy: Tires
Preparing the family car for a summer road trip? You’ll find the year’s best prices on tires around Memorial Day weekend. 

Skip: Swimwear 
Don’t splurge on swimwear and other summer apparel just yet. Wait until June, or even mid-summer, for the steepest discounts.  

Buy: Spring Apparel
Retailers have been displaying their warmer-weather line for months, which makes the end of May the perfect time to stock up on spring-wear. 

Skip: Power Tools 
You’ll only have to wait a few weeks for the hottest deals on power tools. Father’s Day sales usually start at the beginning of June, and offer deep discounts on power tools and other outdoor power equipment. 

Buy: Appliances and Home Décor 
Retailers and manufacturers mark down large household appliances, like refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens at the end of May. You can also score deals on home décor, like light fixtures, flooring and kitchen essentials, at Memorial Day sale events. 

Now that you know what to buy and what to skip this Memorial Day, kick off the season of poolside barbecues and aimless road trips by snagging a great deal! 

DoverPhila Celebrates Youth Members

We often look at pictures to remember the past, but what about the future?

If you ask your children, they can likely picture a future they would like to live in. Some dream to become doctors and help people, others want to be known for their talents. For children and teenagers, the future brings limitless possibilities. But no matter what the dream is, financial education can be instrumental in helping achieve it.

DoverPhila Federal Credit Union knows that financial literacy is a crucial skill for people, but it is one that too few are learning. We believe that financially prepared youth is the key to a successful future, and that is why we are using April to celebrate our youth members.

The theme for this year’s youth celebration is “The future is yours… Picture it! Save for it! Share it!” To kick-off the celebration, we are hosting a Picture It! Save for It! Share It! Contest. The month-long contest that ends April 30th encourages members, 17 years old and younger, to submit vision board posters that consist of photos and illustrations that express their own financial goals/future. Submissions will hang in the lobby of DoverPhila Federal Credit Union’s main office on Fillmore Avenue in Dover. Winners receive a $50 deposit into their youth accounts.

Also in conjunction with this year’s youth celebration is Bonus Week. From April 22nd through April 27th, youth club members can receive a 10% bonus up to $10 on qualifying deposits made to their youth accounts. Each deposit made during this week is an entry into a DPFCU gift basket drawing.     

Please click here or contact a DoverPhila member service representative for details and rules regarding the youth celebration.

Five Ways to Pay Off a Loan Early

If you’re like most Americans, you owe money toward a large loan. Whether that means carrying thousands of dollars in credit card debt, having a hefty mortgage in your name, or making car loan payments each month – loan debt is part of your life.

It can all get kind of depressing—but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can pay off your mortgage, auto loan, credit card debt, and any other debt you’re carrying quicker than you thought possible with a carefully applied technique. These tricks won’t hurt your finances in any dramatic way, but they can make a big difference to the total interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan and help you become debt-free faster.

A note of caution before we explore these tricks: Check with your lender before employing any approach, as some loan types have penalties for making extra or early payments.

1. Make bi-weekly payments. Instead of making monthly payments toward your loan, submit half-payments every two weeks. The benefits to this approach are two-fold:

  • Your payments will be applied more often, so less interest can accrue.

  • You’ll make 26 half-payments each year, which translates into an extra full payment on the year, thereby shortening the life of the loan by several months or even years. If you choose this method with a 30-year mortgage, you can shorten it to 26 years!

2. Round up your monthly payments. Round up your monthly payments to the nearest $50 for an effortless way to shorten your loan. For example, if your auto loan costs you $220 each month, bring that number up to $250. The difference is too small to make a tangible dent in your budget, but large enough to knock a few months off the life of your loan and save you a significant amount in interest.

3. Make one extra payment each year. If you can’t make bi-weekly payments, but you like the idea of an extra yearly payment, accomplish the same goal by committing to just one more payment in the year. You’ll only feel the squeeze once (tax or bonus time, perhaps) and you’ll still shorten the life of the loan. You can also spread that extra payment throughout the year. Divide your monthly payment by 12 and then add that cost to your payments all year long. You’ll be making an extra payment while hardly feeling the pinch.

4. Refinance. If interest rates have dropped since you took out your loan or your credit has improved dramatically, contact DoverPhila Federal Credit Union to ask about refinancing, whether the loan is with us or not. Refinancing makes the most sense if it can help you pay down the loan sooner. You should easily be able to afford shortening the life of the loan with a lower interest rate.

5. Boost your income and put all extra money toward the loan. Cut the life of your loan short by earning more money and putting the extra cash towards your loan. Consider selling stuff on Amazon, moonlighting as a consultant, or taking on a side hustle. Even a job that nets you an extra $200 a month can make a big difference in your loan.


Triumph over your loans by using one or more of these tricks to make them shorter and pay less interest. Feel free to contact DoverPhila Federal Credit Union if you have questions about loan repayment or if you need a fresh perspective on debt repayment. Our free, on-staff financial counselors can help!

Cash Flow Budgeting: A Fast, Flexible Way to Fix Your Finances

You’ve heard it from a million places: Budget your money! Make a firm plan and stick with it. It’s the pathway to prosperity!

For many people, though, that advice just doesn’t resonate. They feel constricted by a budget. Keeping cash in separate envelopes makes them feel like they can’t have a life. It takes too much planning and too much rigid denial. They break their budget and sometimes wind up in serious financial trouble.

Other people have an inconsistent cash flow, making creating and keeping a budget difficult. Maybe they’re freelancers who work gig-to-gig. Maybe they’re in commissioned sales. Maybe their hours fluctuate from month to month. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to make a detailed plan when your bottom line changes every month.

The answer isn’t to give up on budgeting. The collective wisdom, that monitoring your expenses and income streams is the way to stability, still holds true. It might just require a different approach to budgeting: cash flow focus.

Cash flow focus is the strategy used by most businesses. They pay their fixed costs, and whatever is left is used to grow the business. You can manage your finances the same way. Just follow these four steps:

1. Automate your savings. Even if you disregard everything else in this article, implementing this one tip can be life-changing. Figure out how much of your income you can save, and then take that out as soon as you get paid. You can set up monthly transfers from your draft account to your savings account. You can also divide the money between the accounts on a per deposit basis. How you choose to do so is less important than doing so.

Like the saying goes, pay yourself first. This savings provides you the flexibility to cover big expenses or make major purchases on your schedule. It’s the single most important step in any budget, but it’s even more important with cash flow budgeting.

When you automate your savings, you remove the money you saved from consideration. You can’t spend it; you’ve already spent it on savings. The importance of this kind of savings will become more clear once you see this budget in action.

2. Pay your needs and your priorities. Make a list of your essential expenses each month. Include your rent or house payment, your car loan, and your utilities. Also include your student loan payments, your insurance, and other necessary expenses. These are your “fixed costs.” They get paid after your savings contributions are made.

Next, make a list of your priorities. Include your charitable contributions, vacation savings, and retirement account contributions. These are your “growth expenses.” They get paid after your fixed costs.

If you don’t have enough money to make these bills, you don’t need a better budget. You need to lower those bills or increase your income. No amount of spreadsheet magic will change that bottom line.

It’s helpful to automate savings for these expenses, too. That way, you never get caught short on these bills. Transferring this money to a check-only draft account can be a helpful way to ensure you don’t spend it.

3. Spend the leftovers. This message may sound peculiar for personal finance advice. Remember, though, that you’ve already automated your savings. What you’re spending here is the leftovers – the extra that’s left at the end of the month.

 Spend this money however you like – don’t worry about putting this much in entertainment and that much in travel. Just keep track of how much you’ve spent so you don’t accidentally overdraft your account.

This approach allows you to go out or indulge in a latte. You don’t have to worry about including it in your budget. Your spending habits might change as the month goes on, just like a business. If you know there’s a big outing before you get paid again, you may want to save some money for that. You don’t need to say that you can’t go because you didn’t budget for it.

4. Roll over what’s left. If you have worked in a big business, then you have seen departments desperately spending at the end of the fiscal year. Departments buy cases of pens and paper, knowing that they will lose whatever they don’t spend. Fortunately, you’re more flexible than a big business. You don’t have to spend it all. If you have money left over at the end of the month, then you have more to spend the next month.

If you have a month with slightly higher expenses, you can cover it from a previous month’s slightly lower expenses. Your spending will change from month to month, as might your income. So long as you keep the former smaller than the latter in the long run, you’ll be fine.

That’s what cash flow budgeting is about: flexibility. You don’t have to write your non-budgeted spending purposes in stone. You don’t have to mess with cash envelopes or other strategies. You can spend when you have money and save for when you don’t.

DoverPhila Federal Credit Union can help if you’re thinking about adopting a budget. A friendly, knowledgeable financial counselor can walk you through the savings tools you need. You can automate your savings, flex your spending, and build toward financial security. Members can call 330-364-8874 or stop by the credit union’s main office on Fillmore Avenue in Dover for more information.

Sticking to Financial Resolutions

Ohioans, like most Americans, entered 2019 hoping to better their finances, but many have likely already fallen off track.

In an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, 69 percent said their New Year’s resolution was to get on a budget. That statistic isn’t surprising; many Americans looked critically at their financial situations as they headed into 2019. Statista, a platform providing statistical data on a variety of topics, polled 2,000 people about their New Year’s resolutions in early January. The survey found financial goals were the fourth most-popular New Year’s resolution, falling just behind dieting, exercising, and losing weight. 

Americans had good intentions to get their finances in order in 2019, but that doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily stuck to their new budgets. According to research commissioned by GuideVine, a service that matches people with financial advisers, 70 percent of Americans with a budget struggle to stick to it.

And it’s not likely that making your budget a New Year’s resolution will make keeping with it any easier. According to the Ohio Credit Union League survey, 79 percent of Ohioans make incremental improvements toward keeping their resolutions each year, but fall short of keeping them. Another 14 percent have never kept a New Year’s resolution.

The average American doesn’t fare much better. According to a study of 1,450 Americans by Vitagene, 88.6 percent reported they’d likely keep their resolutions for a year or less. Another 36.6 percent of respondents said they usually keep their resolutions for a month or less, meaning they’d be off track by February.

Although your train may have gone off track, all hope is not lost. Here are some tips to help you attain your resolution of getting down to business, paying off bills, buying a house, opening an IRA for retirement, or getting on a path to better financial stability. 

  • Use a budgeting tool. A successful budget must be recorded somewhere. DoverPhila Federal Credit Union offers Banzai, an award-winning financial literacy program that has user-friendly budgeting tools such as calculators, simulated games, and an interactive library with educational articles. Consider budgeting apps such as EveryDollar and YouNeedABudget if you’re looking for more mobile options.

  • Be realistic about spending and saving. Don’t set goals you can’t realistically achieve with your budget. Trying to spend too little or save too much each month could create frustration, which will increase the likelihood that you will dump your budget altogether. Instead, map out incremental changes you can make that will add up to big financial gains over time.

  • Keep goals in mind. Reminding yourself how you would ultimately like your money to work for you can help with exercising control over impulsive spending habits. Consider making your goals visual if you have a hard time picturing your long-term goals when you are tempted to splurge. Try keeping a picture of your ideal retirement in your wallet or a list of all the reasons you want that new car stuck to the fridge. 

  • Reward yourself. It is important to keep long-term goals in mind, but rewarding yourself for small budgeting wins along the way will keep you feeling positive about your budget. The more positively you feel toward a task, the more likely you are to continue performing it. After you reach certain budgeting goals, treat yourself to a small splurge. You earned it!

  • Seek help. Consider asking for help if you are struggling with sticking to a budget. Sometimes, aid can come in the form of a family member who shares household finances. Other times, however, you may require an expert opinion. DoverPhila Federal Credit Union offers free financial counseling to members and is always happy to aid with budget set-up and maintenance.

DoverPhila Federal Credit Union is here to help you reach your financial resolutions. Call the credit union at 330-364-8874 or visit your local credit union for more information.

Tax Reform 101: 5 Reasons You Should Start Planning for Next Year Now

Even if you didn’t owe money this past tax season it’s more important than ever to plan for next tax season now. The idea of tax planning isn’t anything new, but with so many changes under the new tax reform law, DoverPhila Federal Credit Union wanted to break down the five reasons to start planning, and the moves you can make now to help you save money on your taxes when you file.

Five Reasons to Start Planning
1. Lower tax rates, more money. One of the biggest changes under the new tax law that may impact how much you need to have withheld from your paycheck is the reduced tax rates. Tax rates were reduced about 1 – 3% for the majority of taxpayers so you may be seeing more money in your paycheck. Although the IRS adjusted the withholding tables that employers use to produce the correct amount of tax withholding for people with simpler tax situations, for instance, those who only take the standard deduction, the withholding tables don’t reflect some of the other changes that impact more involved tax returns like the reduction of some itemized deductions.

 2. Elimination of personal and dependent exemptions. Under the new tax law the personal and dependent exemptions of $4,050 were eliminated. If you are married and have a few kids, the elimination of your personal and dependent exemptions can mean a big reduction in the number of write-offs you once had.

3. Increase in the Child Tax Credit. Although you’re no longer able to take the dependent deduction, the new tax reform law increased the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. The law also adds a new, non-refundable credit of $500 for dependents other than children. Finally, it raises the income threshold at which these benefits phase out from $110,000 for a married couple to $400,000, which means more people will be eligible for the credit. The Child Tax Credit is for kids under the age of 17. You may see a change in your taxes this year if your youth celebrated a 17th birthday.

4. Changes if you’re a homeowner. If you are a homeowner or you are considering buying your dream home, some of the changes in the new tax law are very important for you. As an existing homeowner, you may see fewer tax deductions that lower your tax liability especially if you live in a state with high property taxes since the new law limits the amount of state and local property, income, and sales taxes that can be deducted to $10,000. In the past, these taxes have generally been fully tax deductible. Due to the cap on these tax deductions, you may now also have to take the standard deduction on your taxes instead of taking itemized deductions since the standard deduction has almost doubled. Don’t worry about knowing if you take the standard deduction or itemized deduction at tax time.

If you are considering purchasing a new home this year, one thing to keep in mind is the law also caps the amount of mortgage indebtedness on new home purchases on which interest can be deducted at $750,000 down from $1,000,000 in the former law if you already own a home. If you are trying to make a decision between purchasing in a high property state like California or a state with lower property prices, knowing about these changes could help you with your decision.

5. Elimination of tax deductions. The new tax reform law eliminated several popular tax breaks starting in tax year 2018 (the one you file in 2019) like miscellaneous itemized deductions. This includes deductions such as job search expenses, unreimbursed work expenses, investment expenses and tax preparation fees, exceeding 2% of adjusted gross income as well as moving expenses.


What You Can Do to Start Planning Now?
Adjust your withholding allowances. One of the best things you can do is to use the TurboTax updated W-4 calculator to boost your tax refund — or your take-home pay.

Reduce your taxable income. You can decrease your taxable income by making smart money moves throughout the year like investing in your 401K or IRA. Also, don’t forget expenses like paying student loan interest can be tax deductible and will decrease your taxable income at tax time.

As a member of DoverPhila Federal Credit Union, you have access to TurboTax at an affordable price. TurboTax is always up to date with the latest forms and 100% accurate calculations. There is no fretting your taxes when you use TurboTax. You can file your taxes with complete confidence – and get your biggest possible refund, guaranteed. Click here to access TurboTax and your savings!

5 Scams to Avoid on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk. Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch. 

Here are five scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving. 

1. BOGUS CRAZY DEALS 
An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of Ugg boots for $9? These deals sound insane because they are. And yet, thousands of people fall for these scams. And, of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they’ll use it for their own shopping spree – on your dime. 

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. 


2. GIFT CARDS FOR CHEAP 
In the weeks before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you might see an explosion of gift cards being sold at online marketplaces for a fraction of their real value. These cards are usually stolen from their real owners, who will likely report them lost. The card will be disabled and you’ll have spent your money on a worthless piece of plastic. 

Be smarter: Don’t buy any super-cheap gift cards 


3. BAIT AND SWITCH
 
Want to win a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details, and you might be the lucky winner! Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. 

“Bait and switch” scams can happen offline. Retailers advertise deals so amazing that you’ll find yourself travelling across town to grab the bargains. Once you reach the store, though, you’ll be told those items are sold out, but you can check out what they do have in stock. You may be offered similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are a waste of your time and money. 

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with. 


4. DELIVERY PROBLEMS
 
If you receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases, be wary. You may be asked to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date. Ignore these emails; they’re likely to be scams. If you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly. 

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source. 


5. WIRE TRANSFERS
This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected. A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and sites you trust and frequent often. 

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back. 

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card. 

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and outsmart scammers!

How to Choose the Correct Credit Card for You

Choosing the best credit card for your lifestyle can have a considerable impact on your overall financial health.

In an Ohio Credit Union League 2018 consumer survey, 73 percent of respondents stated they use at least one or two credit cards every month. Of those who regularly utilized credit cards, 39 percent carried up to $1,000 in credit card debt. Another 30 percent owed between $1,000 and $5,000. According to the Ohio Credit Union League’s Quarterly Performance Summary (2nd Quarter, 2018), the average credit card balance held at Ohio credit unions was $2,142.

Ohioans are right in line with national trends as 71 percent of Americans have at least one credit card, according to The Motley Fool. About 18 percent of Americans have three or four credit cards in their wallet, and those cards tend to carry debt.

With the possibility that their credit cards could carry significant debt, it’s not surprising consumers want to shop around before choosing a card.

The majority of respondents in the Ohio Credit Union League consumer survey, about 44 percent, said they look for the best interest rates and lowest fees in their credit cards. According to Experian, most Americans shop for credit cards with a similar mindset; 54 percent seek out a card with no annual fee, while 40 percent look for a low-interest rate. It’s not all business, though. Another 45 percent of Americans and 32 percent of Ohioans said perks, including points for travel, discounts, and other rewards, could influence them to apply for a card.

Americans might have clear motivations for seeking credit cards, but that doesn’t mean they’re easily finding the cards that suit their needs. Although consumers know they should shop for the best deals, according to the Experian survey, 69 percent of Americans said they feel researching the correct card is too time-consuming. Another 61 percent said they become overwhelmed by the number of options available, and 57 percent said it’s too difficult to tell which card would work best for them.

Still, the majority of respondents in the Experian survey, 64 percent, said they believe their perfect credit card is out there, they just haven’t found it, yet.

Don’t let stress over choosing the best credit card deter you from using plastic to pay. Here are tips for finding the perfect credit card:

  • Check your credit. Higher credit scores are more likely to be approved for credit cards with better perks, while those with lower scores may need to shop around more. It’s best to begin the research process knowing your score, rather than being declined for the credit card you want after searching. Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. AnnualCreditReport.com is a federal- authorized site where you can find your score.

  • Figure out what type of credit card you need. Consumers can choose between cards that help improve limited or damaged credit, cards that save money on interest, and cards that earn rewards. Additionally, some consumers choose cards to transfer a balance from an existing credit card. Be sure you’re choosing the card most beneficial to your current situation. Check out the credit cards offered at DoverPhila Federal Credit Union.

  • Decide how likely you are to carry a balance. If you know your credit card will carry debt you won’t be able to pay off right away, you should search for cards with low annual percentage rates. Otherwise, you could end up with card payments that don’t fit into your budget and that drag out longer than expected. Make sure you know how much you can realistically afford to pay in finance charges each month and shop around accordingly.

  • Read all the fine print. Thoroughly research and understand how your potential credit card will fit into your budget. You may be attracted to a card because of its 0 percent APR introductory offer, but make sure you understand how long that offer lasts and what you’ll be paying in finance charges once that rate changes. Some cards also include annual fees, late fees, and foreign transaction fees you should be aware of before you apply. Be sure you understand everything about your new card so you can use it as wisely as possible.

  • Look to a credit union. DoverPhila Federal Credit Union offers competitive rates on credit cards that are tailored to your spending habits, along with reward programs.

Learn more about how DoverPhila Federal Credit Union can help you make a savvy credit card choice. Visit any DoverPhila location or call 330-364-8874 to speak with a credit union member service representative.

Back-To-School Shopping Hacks

Between new backpacks, textbooks, a long list of supplies and a fresh autumn wardrobe, most parents are looking at a bill of close to $700 for school-related expenses this season. Be proactive and save big! Read on for our handy list of back-to-school shopping hacks that will help you keep more money in your wallet. 

Plan to shop five times
To take full advantage of sales and clearance events throughout the summer, plan on making five shopping trips this season so you can get the best prices when they are offered. 

Stock up 
While prices are low, buy enough school supplies to last through the first half of the year or more. You’ll save a ton and not have the hassle of buying more later. 

Take advantage of loss leaders
Every week this season, retailers sell one product at a super-low price. This is their loss leader: an item priced so cheaply that retailers actually lose money on sales. Make sure you catch those deals! 

Shop the dollar store
Before you hit the regular stores, shop for real bargains at dollar stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Dollar General.

Buy designer backpacks online
Check out sites like 6PM and eBags for fantastic deals on designer backpacks. 

Use manufacturer coupons
Check out circulars, like RedPlum, and coupon sites, like Retailmenot.com, for manufacturer coupons from supply companies. 

Decode price tags 
Here’s how these popular stores mark their lowest prices: 

  • The Gap: Ending in $.97
  • Target: Ending in an 8
  • Old Navy: Ending in $.47
  • TJMaxx: Yellow price tag

Shop through Love to Shop (exclusive to DoverPhila members)
Do all your online shopping through Love to Shop, a fun and easy way to earn cash back when you shop online at your favorite stores. Credit union members receive cash back for every purchase at over 1,500 online retailersOpens a New Window. in Love to Shop. Get details!

Coordinate with other parents
If you’re in Walmart when they have bargain-priced pencils, offer to buy a few boxes for your friend’s kids. And, when your friend finds the super-hot deal on crayons, he’ll pick up a few boxes for your kids. 

Check out gift-card sites
Save big by buying discounted gift cards to stores like Michael’s and JCPenney on sites like GiftCardGranny and Raise. 

Use the Amazon App
Have your phone handy when shopping so you can comparison-shop when buying your supplies. If an item is cheaper on Amazon, why buy it at a store? 

Sign up for promotional mail

  • H&M: Save 20% on one item when you text your email address to 707-03
  • Kohl’s: Save 15% off your entire order by texting SAVE15 to 564-57
  • Old Navy: Sign up for a weekly text alert by texting 6046 to 653-689 and get a $5 coupon; and also sign up for promo emails on OldNavy.com to get a 30%-off coupon
  • Crazy8: Sign up for emails and receive 18% off your next order plus free shipping
  • The Children’s Place: Input your email address in the pop-up box on TheChildrensPlace.com and get a $10 coupon.

Take advantage of price-matching
Lots of stores, like Office Depot, Staples and Target, offer to match any competitor’s price.

Shop early in the week 
Weekly sales go live on Sundays and the best deals get grabbed first. Shop Sundays and Mondays, and never miss out on a great deal again. 

Save big this season with these back-to-school shopping hacks! And don’t forget to sign up for Love to Shop through Love My Credit Union Rewards!

DoverPhila Partners with Area Organizations to Offer Financial Literacy Program

DoverPhila Federal Credit Union is partnering with OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County and United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc. to offer a financial literacy workshop for area residents.  “Master Your Money – Simple Tips to Improve Cash Flow” is scheduled for Thursday, August 2nd from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County located at 1260 Monroe Street in New Philadelphia. 

The workshop offers easy, straightforward techniques to achieve financial goals. Topics include tackling expenses, increasing savings, and improving credit. Attendees have the option of bringing their own financial information to the workshop to create a personalized spending plan.

“Financial difficulties due to lack of employment and or other employment related issues are what many of the customers we serve face each day.  Through this collaboration with United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc. and DoverPhila Federal Credit Union, we hope to assist area residents with tools and information to help them become financially stable and achieve financial independence,” said JoAnn Breedlove, COO of the Workforce Initiative Association and OhioMeansJobs Centers in Stark and Tuscarawas Counties. 

“The United Way of Tuscarawas County is pleased to collaborate with OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County and the DoverPhila Federal Credit Union,” said Robin Waltz, President of United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc. “Bringing together organizations with common missions and goals is a win-win for the Tuscarawas County community.”

For further details, contact OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County at 330-364-9777. Pre-registration is suggested, but not required.

Surviving the Holidays with Your Sanity Intact

With crowded stores and an ever-growing list of people to shop for, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to overspend on your holiday shopping. No worries, though; we’ve got you covered! Read on for pre-and post-holiday tips and have yourself a jolly December without breaking the bank.

 6 Pre-Holidays Tips

1. Revise your gift list
Chances are, lots of the people you exchange gifts with would be relieved to be taken off your list. Talk to co-workers and acquaintances about just exchanging cards this year, or make a deal to only exchange homemade or inexpensive gifts. This way, you can focus on buying special gifts for those closest to you instead of generic gifts for everyone you’ve ever met.

2. Organize a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa
Still got a mile-long list? Try one of these creative solutions! A Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa activity saves money and stress while adding a bit of intrigue to any party. Everyone involved only needs to bring a single gift – and it’s always fun. Set a reasonable price cap on gifts so no one walks out with a candy cane while the person next to them hauls off a flat-screen TV.

3. Bake holiday treats
Reduce the financial weight of the season by whipping up your own holiday treats instead of buying gifts. It’s hard to find the perfect gift, but no one turns down a tin of homemade holiday cookies!

4. Make a budget and stick to it
We all plan to stick to a budget this holiday season – make this the year it really happens. Set an absolute limit to how much you will spend on the holidays.  This will encourage you to plan your spending rather than grabbing impulse items as you shop.

5. Make use of holiday deals….but don’t get distracted
When prices drop, we sometimes go wild, snatching up random items because we don’t want to miss out on those “crazy, low holiday prices.” Make use of these deals by buying items on your list at a discounted price – but don’t buy things you don’t need.

6. Rethink giving
Instead of running to the mall again, think of other ways you can give that will make the world a better place and truly brighten someone’s holiday. It’s the perfect time of year to volunteer at local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and charity organizations.

2 Post-Holiday Tips

1. Use those gift cards
Gift cards are a typical holiday gift, but they’re often forgotten and unused. Put your gift cards in your wallet and spend them creatively.  If you’re not a fan of on-the-go coffee, use your Starbucks gift card to pick up ground coffee beans to use at home.  Rent a movie with your iTunes card.  Whatever it might be, just use those gift cards!

2. Re-gift
You’ll probably wind up with a bunch of gifts you don’t want.  Hold onto them; many gifts can be re-gifted next year or used as birthday gifts throughout the year.

DoverPhila Partners with Area Organizations to Promote Financial Literacy

OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County, United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc., and DoverPhila Federal Credit Union are partnering to offer a financial literacy workshop for area residents. “Master Your Money – Simple Tips to Improve Cash Flow” will be held Tuesday, December 5th, 10:00AM to 12:00PM at OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County at 1260 Monroe Street in New Philadelphia. 

The workshop will offer easy and straightforward methods to reaching financial goals. Topics include tackling expenses, increasing savings and improving credit.

“Many of the customers that we serve struggle with numerous financial difficulties due to lack of employment or other employment related issues. This collaboration with United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc. and DoverPhila Federal Credit Union is a positive step in helping area residents become financially stable and achieve financial independence,” said JoAnn Breedlove, COO of OhioMeansJobs Centers in Stark and Tuscarawas Counties. 

“This collaboration is a great example of how United Way brings together organizations with common missions and goals,” said Robin Waltz, President of United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc.

For further details contact OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County at 330-364-9777. Pre-registration is suggested but not required.